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Validation of the lift-off test and analysis of subscapularis activity during maximal internal rotation.

Authors: Greis PE, Kuhn JE, Schultheis J, Hintermeister R, Hawkins R.

References: Am J Sports Med. 1996 Sep-Oct;24(5):589-93

Abstract
We used electromyographic analysis to determine the muscle activity of the shoulder muscles during the lift-off test and during resisted internal rotation. The activity in the upper and lower subscapularis muscle during a lift-off test from the region of the midlumbar spine was approximately 70% of maximal voluntary contraction. This level was significantly higher than for all the other muscles tested (P < 0.05). The lift-off test with the hand placed in the region of the midlumbar spine resulted in one-third more electromyographic activity in the subscapularis muscle than when the test was modified and performed with the hand at the buttocks region. A resisted lift-off test resulted in higher activities in all the muscles, but only a small increase in the pectoralis major muscle. The pectoralis major muscle was significantly more active during resisted internal rotation with the arm in front of the body. Comparison of activity in the upper subscapularis with that in the lower subscapularis muscle showed no significant differences during any of the tests. This study documents the importance of the subscapularis muscle during the lift-off test and suggests that other potential internal rotators of the humerus have a limited role in maintaining internal rotation when the arm is placed behind the back.

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